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Industry Insights | w/ Tiffany Jones of 'Overlapse'

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Interview conducted by Mark Tamer

Overlapse is an independent visual arts and photobooks imprint based in London UK, founded in 2015 by publisher Tiffany Jones. We asked Tiffany some questions about herself and her work.

Can you tell us something about Overlapse and what you do?

Overlapse collaborates with artists and photographers to produce desirable books with relevant, socially progressive and universal themes that explore shared human experiences. Each book object is distinctive, has a life of its own, and hopefully readers will bond with them in meaningful ways.

I founded the imprint on my own and run quite a demanding operation! A ‘normal’ day could involve answering emails, writing press releases, doing financial accounting, schlepping parcels to the post office and packing a few hundred books for a shipment to the other side of the world. Much of my time is spent in conversation with photographers about their ideas and their work, with a mind to making an extraordinary book. I design quite a lot, so I’m working with image arrangements and thinking of ways to express the essence of what photographers are trying to say and do with their projects. Then I regularly deal with printers, which involves having a considerable understanding of papers and materials that are used in production, so that’s a fun challenge. These are a few things that I do. When a book is published I’m selling it to shops, internationally, and I also travel quite often to book fairs in Europe and North America, taking books to the people!

Tiffany Jones | Publisher and founder of Overlapse

Tiffany Jones | Publisher, and founder of Overlapse

You were a photographer initially and then moved into publishing. How did that transition come about and are you still practicing as a photographer?

I’ve been involved in photography, journalism and publishing in balance since I was a young girl. I was fortunate to be given a good Kodak camera by my uncle when I was 8 and began looking at the world through it, rather compulsively, right from the start! Alongside that, I was writing journals and poetry, and started writing music reviews for a magazine when I was 13. In high school (in Canada) I studied journalism and edited the school newspaper which had 2500+ readers. All of this experience shaped my ambition, as I felt quite a magnetic pull to pursue this path of research and storytelling. So I went on to study photojournalism in college, and then later did an intensive publishing course. That was a long while back! I focused on my own photography intensively from about 2002-2015, and was editing the magazine for London Independent Photography (fLIP) from 2010-2014.

The editing experience pushed me to make some changes in my life, and in 2016 I completed my MA in Publishing here in the UK, researching the market for contemporary photobooks. During the course I published my first book as part of an independent study module - The Longest Way Round - and it got quite a lot of positive attention internationally. It was encouraging, so I was motivated to continue with publishing. As a photographer my interest is in social documentary and poetic representation of life as we live it, so the foundation is based in journalism. For the past few years I haven’t really practised serious photography of my own, which I’m fine with for now. Of course like everyone I often use my phone camera. These days I am acting as a bridge for other photographers, to take their ideas and stories and shape them into books that audiences want to buy.

Beyond Drifting - Mandy Barker

Can you explain a little about how you work with the artist on their book? What is your role, how much input do you have?

Working with artists is different in every case. Some are more organised and experienced with constructing their work into a sequence or flow that can translate very well in the form of a book. Others really struggle to figure out the essence of what they’ve accumulated while working on a project. So there are cases where my involvement has been very deep, but it’s always about collaboration – give and take – when it comes to evolving work into a book format. I may make suggestions that a photographer create additional material to flesh out the project. I’m serving as their bridge to an audience. So the core of my contribution is that I put myself in the place of the audience for a particular book, and relentlessly aim to do what is best for them. The audience for every book is at least slightly different, and decisions need to be made that will stimulate them. Once you are considering making a work that will be made for sale, in a way it’s not your work anymore – as an artist. You have to give it over for the benefit of others. There’s no point in making a book that you’ll print 1000 copies of, if you don’t engage the audience enough for them to buy it and gain something from it.

You wrote a dissertation for your MA on the market for photo-books, are there any insights you can share?

I conducted three surveys: with Publishers, Booksellers and Buyers, and analysed the data they responded with, at length. It’s quite specifically focused on the economics and psychological conditions at play in what is a very niche market. It is available to download for anyone interested to read it! I am also currently re-formatting it to be more reader-friendly rather than academic, and will print it shortly. The bottom line is that publishing photobooks is a very difficult business to succeed at, and all people involved in the market are mutually dependent on one another to keep the community alive.

Metropole - Lewis Bush

What advice can you give any artist or photographer looking to publish a book? (What elements should they be thinking about?)

If you are looking to publish a book, it’s beyond time to consider who your audience might be and what will excite them. How will your book stand out from the crowd? How can it be improved? With more or less material? Think about the book form and how you connect with it with your senses. How does it feel in your hands? How do you interact with it, as an object that lives with you? The experience of using/reading a book can be entirely forgettable, or it could change your life. What sort of book will you make, knowing that? It will take hard work to get it right. Give up your ego and be practical so you can focus seriously and make something brilliant happen.

Finally, what is the one bit of advice you can give to an artist? (life or publishing related)

Believe that you are capable of effective communication, above all, then work hard while following your instincts without fear of failure.

Thank you Tiffany for sharing your thoughts with us,

You can learn more about Overlapse at :

Team IMA

re-IMAgining the art world

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